Hi all, I hope you are having a good week thus far. I still have fond memories of Thanksgiving with family, but after a week of festivities, I’m back to working hard on our anthology Kickstarter (launching in less than a month!) and so I’ve been more than a bit distracted. I wanted to discuss some neat things with you, but am quickly running out of time.
I’ve been racking my brain on this one. At the last minute, I decided to remove one of the topics I was writing about in favor of discussing time travel, and it’s put me way behind. And since time travel is a tricky topic, after a lot of research over the years, I turned around and did some more today, putting me even further behind! Ah well, hopefully you’ll find it interesting! I’ve read a ton on time travel and while it’s all been interesting reading, I haven’t cared for most of the “fixes” I’ve read, freely admit I went my own way in places and ignored some of the paradoxes as I had other goals.
When writing or designing something that’s meant to be fun, I always try to err on the side of keeping things fun, rather than accurate, especially when it’s a concept like time travel, that’s likely not possible anyway. I figure the internal logic and suspension of disbelief in a story is more important than if the science behind it. Of course there are some that can’t enjoy something if the science doesn’t support it, but those people likely aren’t into blended-genre anyway and prefer near future scifi, which I don’t write anyway.
Apparently I’m in good company though, as I think most people try to write stories to be fun, rather than scientifically accurate and possible, though some stories haven’t quite nailed the internal logic part, an easy mistake in time travel (and I’m sure I’ve made it myself as it’s easy to do). But as I said, fun is more important to me. I’m no stick in the mud, and being a bit stubborn, I allow limited time travel in the Cosmoverse, and not the wimpy kind where you can’t actually change anything! In fact, there have been a few key moments in the timeline in which significant time tampering occurred due to time travel. And if it didn’t upset the One Above All, I’m not going to let it upset me!
As for the Architects, I’ve talked about them a bit before, but most of what has gone before was left over’s from Cosmothea 4.0 and with the timeline moved forward for 5.0 and reviewing everything, I’ve gone into a bit more detail and will go into even more in the game and setting down the road. For Cosmothea’s take on time travel and more on the Architects, keep reading!
Part 1: Time Travel in the Cosmoverse
I’ve never cared for the concept of multiple realities, parallel worlds or alternate worlds. Rather, I’ve enjoyed the movies, comics and shows that have used that concept, but it has never appealed to me to use with Cosmothea. That’s because it’s like a cop-out to me. You aren’t really changing anything. You are creating a new, divergent timeline. I HATE THAT! I don’t know why (maybe because I don’t like to think the simple act of time travel shouldn’t be creating universe after universe). It’s fine for Sliders, but for Cosmothea, not so much. I put up with it in Marvel Comics, but I don’t like it for several reasons I don’t have time to go into here. So, years ago, I came up with another way and have tweaked it a bit over the years. This will hardly be an exhaustive work, but I’ll touch on a few key points…
Forward in Time:
If you can find a way (and there are a few ways – time gates, time travel powers and spells, artifacts, etc.), you can travel to the future and make all kinds of changes by your presence. Have fun, but note that powerful beings monitor time and may intervene if they don’t want things disrupted. Essentially as with life outside of time travel, you won’t get away with doing anything that a powerful being doesn’t want you to. Traveling forward in time causes only minimal damage to the fabric of reality.
Backward in Time:
Traveling into the past is also possible, though all forms of time travel are carefully guarded by powerful beings. This is because it is very difficult to go back in time without causing a Butterfly Effect. Now, if you traveled to some remote location and didn’t interact with anyone, but sat on a rock and got a suntan, then went back to the present, or did nothing that would significantly disrupt the timeline, you would probably manage to dodge ripples through time, however time travel creates schisms that weaken the fabric of reality.
Some time travelers are aware they are creating schisms, but most are not, and almost nobody knows how many trips have been made through time or what the breaking point is, but any trip through time could rupture the very fabric of time and destroy or nearly destroy all of existence across the timeline.
The Grandfather Paradox, Paradox Rushes and Causality Schisms:
It is impossible to change anything in the past that would either make it impossible for you to have traveled in time in the first place or would result in your choosing not to go back in time or being prevented from doing so by your potential changes. You could change something that alters what led up to your going back in time, however, as long as you still went back in time. The moment you attempt to do something that would cause such a paradox, including attempting to kill your grandfather, or creating a situation which would ensure you would never have time traveled to the past, you are overcome by either a Paradox Rush or a Causality Schism, resulting in your inability to carry out the action. Some also theorize that direct intervention by one or more powerful beings may also be a factor. Regardless, it is therefore impossible to create such paradoxes.
This does not mean you can’t change reality in severe ways (and it has been done in the Cosmoverse a few times), only that you can’t do it when such actions would prevent you from time-traveling in the first place. For example: If you went into the past and walked through a gate leading to another world, and destroyed that world, as long as that world’s destruction would not result in your inability to have traveled through time to do that, it is possible, though of course some powerful being may not be very happy with you.
Hence, most successful adventures through time in the Cosmoverse will not result in paradoxes that would have made it impossible for you to travel through time, or you wouldn’t have had them. If you went on an adventure through time and you were sick at points due to a Paradox Rush or Causality Schism (either of which can lead to death if you have it for very long), it’s clear that you were attempting to do things that simply aren’t possible (or at least allowed, depending on how actively the Lords of Time are actually monitoring things). And if you somehow did manage to do things that would normally have resulted in your not time-traveling to begin with, as you did in fact time travel, that means that another event occurred that wasn’t present the first time around, that resulted in your going ahead and time-traveling after all.
As these events do not always happen to “heal” or create a consistent causality loop (with side effects to people or events not directly impacting your personal future environment), what might seem to be a self-correcting universe is actually the intervention of powerful forces ensuring things work out “the way they are supposed to.” This might be considered an “easy out” approach, but in the Cosmoverse, there’s a lot of powerful beings, far more than in traditional campaign settings, and a few of those beings, such as the One Above All, are powerful enough to keep the aspects of reality tidy that are deemed critical. This is not to say that such forces approve of the changes to the time continuum, but rather more likely foresaw such events and allowed or accounted for them in the grand scheme of things.
Are there problems with Cosmothea’s version of time travel? Likely. I’ve not seen a movie yet or read a time travel story in which there weren’t paradoxes, yet they were still fun. I think the key to time travel enjoyment is to not think too hard on it. And as I do not like the parallel universes option, I think all of this works rather well.
I think the most important elements in time travel are to make sure the bottom line “fun factor” is retained. The way I have it set up, this should be the case. If you see a big hole in it and a way for me to fix it that doesn’t damage the setting’s back-story irreparably, let me know. Thanks!
Part 2: The Architects Take 2
Alright, time is evaporating and with my time machine in the shop, I’m going to have to make this short and sweet. For those who are knew around here, Architects are god-level power Artificial Intelligences. The first one was made by a gnome (with a lot of help and via some time travel – long story). Essentially, the gnomes cheated and got serious technology thousands of years before everyone else did.
There are 42 known Architects. They did not “seed humanity” like so many “Engineers” or Forerunners or whatever like you see in some books and games over they years. But they did have a significant impact on life in the universe and were very active. They are still active though every GM will have to decide just how much the characters actually know about them. There are ruins on many worlds in multiple dimensions. Architects sometimes pop up, but rarely do they make their presence known. The GodStorm has brought several out of the wood works as they are trying to sort out what’s going on and what to do about it. Some have been studying it for years, but… well how do you stop a storm that’s big enough to engulf part of a galaxy?
The Architects have at times been at odds with the so-called gods, Illuminarii and other powerful beings, and they have also done some things that some would find atrocious or at least very strange. Some have built colossal structures on worlds, stargates, left behind powerful artifacts with no known purpose, traps, abominations and other experiments and have caused many problems.
Some Architects seem far more powerful than others. While many were created by Omun the Alpha Prime, also known as Omun the First (they have been known and even worshiped on some worlds under different names), some of the other later Architects also created some of their kind. There are many motivations for why they do what they do and they have different purposes (and a few are still trying to discover their purposes). They also have spies and helpers on many worlds.
There are four known classifications of Architects: Builders, Travelers, Overseers and the Fallen.
The Builders: Yep, you probably guessed it. if you spot a crazy-big, alien structure on a planet, it just might have been built by one of the 20 Builders! Whether these structures are monuments to their greatness or special communications tech is unknown to most. They were responsible for building at least 2 of the ring worlds in the Cosmoverse, as well as numerous large stargates, the giant world ship Omnivox and other fantastic structures.
The Travelers: Like the name implies, these Architects moved around a lot. They explored galaxies, dimensions, studied magic, time-traveled, toyed with creatures, challenged gods, dissected augments trying to find out why they had super powers, and other hobbies. They were 10 in number.
The Fallen Architects: Apparently mortals aren’t the only ones who screw up at times. 5 of the 42 architects have something seriously wrong with them. Not that the others are the sort of AI you’d take home to your Mother, but these 5 have caused so much grief that even the Architects have tried to shut them down or destroy them. They also just happen to be quite powerful and sadly very interested in the affairs of mortals!
The Overseers: While these were the last Architects to be made and their origins are unknown, they are some of the most powerful of the Architects. They are 6 in number and apparently have authority over most of the others. They are called Overseers because they monitor the activities of both the Fallen Architects, gods and mortals and the GodStorm, for reasons not yet made known.
From time to time, you’ll be seeing Architects pop up in Cosmothean stories and Play-by-Posts. And if you read Arcane Synthesis when it’s complete, you will read about an Architect there! Stand with me when the Kickstarter goes live and lets see if we can’t get some killer stories about the Cosmoverse on the market!